Making Scents Of It All

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Recently, while waiting in line to pick up a prescription, next to the shelf laden with Gas-X, Beano, and their generic equivalents, I began to ponder some of life’s ironies. It’s never the 120 cubic inches of flatulence, scientists tell us our family members each produce every day, that brings us to emergency rooms at 4:00 A.M. Rather, it’s what we choose to do about it.
Just ahead of me, the pharmacist unboxed and placed an orange and a blue plastic inhaler (or puffer), and a green nasal-spray applicator (or spritzer) on the counter. A boy, standing by his mother reached out and happily arranged them into a line, like a short colorful train. Then he caught the man’s words “Two sprays into each of his nostrils with this one” and he looked up in fear at his mother— the spell broken.
I too, am sometimes on the same orange, blue, and green regimen as the child, and today I have come for a refill prescription on one of them. This really isn’t much of a coincidence though, given the fact that asthma and other related breathing problems are so prevalent these days. The only things that seem to be selling faster than medicinal puffers and spritzers are the non-medicinal ones that moms and dads routinely force their kids to breathe… those omnipresent room deodorizers!
The anti-smoking lobby has won us the right to breathe clean air, uncontaminated by the chemical cocktail found in cigarette smoke, but what kind of air pollution do you think all those sprays, scented-oil outlet-plug-ins, and motion triggered puff-of-fragrance dispensers are pumping into your living space?
How long before you all wake up and smell the coffee, folks? I wouldn’t be surprised if that was physically impossible for many, what with olfactory glands so thoroughly anesthetized by the constant use of fraudulent chemical scents. Real smells hardly waken the senses anymore!
In my former business, I was in and out of a large number of houses every week. But less and less frequently did a home actually smell like a home— a comforting place, redolent with that rich mixture of smells associated with normal everyday living. A leather chair, grass-stained garden gloves, lemonade, Ivory soap, and toast—  these things tell a person that this place is a home, not a rose garden, a field of lavender, or an orange grove.
I will freely admit that, for the first five minutes, the heady fragrance in a chemically enhanced room can be rather exhilarating for me. It sometimes triggers a memory of that first kiss under the lilac bush, or a wagon ride through an apple orchard with two toddlers in tow. Then, suddenly, my nose is burning! A disoriented bee has left his bloom and buzzed up my left nostril! My throat is closing up as I choke on one of the farmer’s apples! Back to reality and a frantic search for my blue puffer!
Why have home scent products proliferated to such a breath-taking assortment? The ad agencies are capitalizing, yet again, on the crunched-for-time working woman’s deepest fear. Her “achievable level-of-clean” isn’t what she thinks her mom expects of her. And not just her own mom, but every one of those TV ad moms too. She has every cleaning product they have ever suggested under the kitchen sink —perhaps awaiting her retirement years. Frustrated by her lack of time to use them, she deludes herself into believing that that little voice-of-her-mother, which she constantly hears in her head, is actually saying, “You know what sweetie? It sure does smell clean in here! And you know what I always say, ‘If it smells clean, it is clean!’”
It’s clear that this is the message in one of those classic commercials. A mom enters her kid’s room. Dirty clothes, garbage, and discarded food containers are scattered everywhere. Images of sweaty gym bags and sports equipment flicker across the screen. So, what does this stressed out mom do? Hire a maid? Enlist the services of a mover? Hire an exterminator? Tell the kid to clean up his own darn room? Of course not! She inhales deeply of the wonderful mood altering substance she has conveniently brought in with her after she gives the room a nice big shot of  chemical spray. Then she smiles, turns, and leaves. It apparently helps her to forget all about the potential for mould, mildew, ants, mice and lost gerbils reproducing in her home. In just a few quick and easy sprays, all is right with the world. If it isn’t, and she is having any anxieties keeping her awake at night, she can just anesthetize herself and all of her offspring too, with a nice lengthy  finger-numbing spray application of the latest product all throughout the house— “Soothing Lavender Sleep in a Can” apparently.
What I’d like to know is— why doesn’t anyone ever open their windows anymore if household odors are such a major problem? Are we so worried about smog, about home invasions, about eaves-dropping neighbors, that we won’t take the risk, and breathe some real air every now and then?
Scientists, who study smells and their psychological impact, tell us that tangerine is a cheering scent; chamomile, vanilla and jasmine soothe tension, and lavender and verbena ease depression. I’d be happy just to walk through my front door, after a hard day’s work, and smell the ham and cabbage dinner of my childhood, or the garlic, onion, and paprika smells of my dear old grandma Mum’s kitchen. That would, without a doubt, cheer me, soothe me and ease my depression!

About Yvonne's Musings

Being the second of eight kids born in 11 years to my busy parents ultimately was a real advantage to me. I learned very early that if you wanted to be heard amidst all the noise the best way to accomplish it was to write your thoughts down. My first post to my mother," i hate skool. i cried at skool tooday!" was stuck with ABC chewing gum to the lid of the diaper pail, where I was certain that she would find it. Her attention quickly elicited in me a love of writing that has been life long. Seeking a wider audience I have decided to now, decades later, blog. Happy reading Mom! This is for you!

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